Expert Advice for Rigging Your Boat and Catching More Fish

Here are handy tips for improving livewells, securing gear, prolonging the life of trailer tires and enhancing deck safety.

Here are four helpful tips that can help keep your live bait healthier, make your boat deck less slippery, prolong the life of your boat-trailer tires and keep gear in place in rough seas.

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Bait Therapy

If the baitfish in your livewell dart about frantically or continually nose against the walls, they won't fare well throughout a day of fishing. A solution I learned from Capt. Billy Harbaugh while fishing off of Islamorada can help live bait relax and mill about peacefully, Harbaugh, who also sells live bait, places dark-blue interlocking Kendall Dri-Dek flexible panels in the bottom of the tank. The theory holds that something dark below them gives baitfish the illusion that they're in deep water. I experimented with the technique on the Pacific Coast with sardines and mackerel, and found that the blue mats calmed the bait noticeably. I found the biggest improvements in tanks that are wider than they are deep. Dri-Dek panels retail for about $6 or $7 for each square-foot section, which can be snapped together with other sections, and cut to fit your bait tank. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Quick Nonskid

Nonskid soles wear down from foot traffic and scrubbing, leaving you and your crew with a slippery deck. If you don't have time for applying a coat of fresh nonskid, you'll find a quick solution in the form of 3M Safety-Walk slip-resistant, adhesive grip tape.It comes in a variety of widths, grit-grades and colors. The black 3M Safety-Walk Step and Ladder-Tread Tape offer the greatest traction, but the color makes it hot underfoot. The Safety-Walk Medium-Grip is not as aggressive, but it's available in lighter colors such as gray and white – better for most boats. A 60-foot roll of the 4-inch wide medium-grip tape retails for about $75. The peel-and-stick backing makes 3M Safety-Walk easy to apply. Cut to lengths you want and clean the deck with a solvent such as acetone to ensure lasting adhesion. It works so well, you might put off that application of fresh nonskid for a long time. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Cover Up

The tread on boat-trailer tires rarely wears out from too many miles on the road. More often, the sidewalls rot away from constant exposure to the sun's UV rays, and your tires die a premature death. To help prolong the life of your tires, keep them covered while the trailer is stored. There are a number of tire covers available. I like RV Wheel and Tire Storage Covers from Classic Accessories (about $25 a pair). While you're at it, cover the spare tire, too, with a product such as the C.E. Smith Spare Tire Cover ($19 to $21). Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Fiddle Around

Items on horizontal surfaces such as the top of a console or bait-rigging station tend slide or roll off when the boat's at sea. To keep pliers, sunglasses, terminal tackle and the like from falling on the deck, think about adding "fiddles" – the nautical term for little fences that keep stuff from sliding off a table or counter. I cut some ¾-inch-square strips from white King Starboard high-density plastic lumber (about $75 for a 12- by 27-inch, ¾-inch sheet) to create fiddles for a little tray behind my helm seat. I drilled and countersunk holes in the fiddles to secure them to the outer edges of the surface. Now I can stash lures and boxes of hooks there without fear of them sliding off, if the boat rolls or pitches. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks